Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 7 September 2021


 China doesn’t have the right solution — but excessive video gaming is a real problem

Usual bullshit from a psychologist who says the only solution to gaming is - what else? - expensive consultations with … psychologists! But the first part is interesting: it attests to the extent of the problem… for which the foremost solution must be… precisely what Xi is doing… Outlaw games. Wipe them off the internet. Punish severely those who push them.

Evergrande’s troubles shake China’s property bond market

Trading suspended for second time since Friday as Moody’s downgrades indebted developer again

A banner promoting the Emerald Bay residential project outside the China Evergrande Centre in Hong Kong

Problems at Evergrande have thrown the spotlight on the ability of other highly leveraged developers to refinance as liquidity conditions tighten in China © Lam Yik/Bloomberg


September 7, 2021 7:01 am by Thomas Hale in Hong Kong

Trading in China Evergrande bonds was suspended for the second time in days on Tuesday and rating agency Moody’s downgraded the property developer for a third time since June, sending jitters through the country’s real estate debt market.

The bonds were suspended temporarily after falling more than 20 per cent in Shenzhen, according to a statement from the city’s stock exchange that echoed a similar intervention on Friday.

The volatility came as a rapidly unfolding liquidity crisis at the world’s most indebted property developer added to fears over the wider Chinese sector’s battle to deleverage.

The bonds of Guangzhou R&F, another Chinese property developer, edged lower in Shanghai on Tuesday to about 60 per cent of their face value, following falls of more than 20 per cent a day earlier. Moody’s had also downgraded the group’s credit rating and warned over its ability to refinance.

Fantasia Group, a third property company facing refinancing concerns, said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Monday evening that it had made several purchases of its own bonds, one of which matures in December. Its bonds sank to 78 cents on the dollar.

Refinancing worries across the sector have grown following a sustained sell-off in the debt and equity of Evergrande, which last week warned about the risk of default.

Shares in Evergrande were down as much as 8.5 per cent in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

As well as choppy trading on international markets, where they are some of Asia’s biggest high-yield borrowers, Chinese property developers are also grappling with tighter credit conditions and weaker sales within China. Beijing introduced rules last year to constrain developers’ leverage.

“Overall, the funding conditions have tightened and the offshore bond market is also getting more volatile,” said Kaven Tsang, a senior vice-president at Moody’s.


Hui Ka Yan, the Chinese tycoon trying to save the Evergrande empire

“That actually has some negative implications on the market as a whole,” he added. “The refinancing risk has increased.”

The issues facing Evergrande, which has rushed to dispose of assets to raise cash to pay off its debts, have already helped push up yields across China’s high-yield market. Average yields rose to 13 per cent in late August compared with less than 10 per cent in June, according to an index from ICE and Bank of America.

In language reminiscent of Evergrande’s challenges, Moody’s late last week estimated that Guangzhou R&F did not have enough cash to cover its debt repayments in the next year and a half, meaning it would need to rely on “new financing or asset sales”.

Fantasia said in the filing that the purchases of its own bonds would “reduce the company’s future financial expenses and lower its financial gearing level”. 

In a separate filing late on Friday, it said the bonds had also been bought through companies wholly owned by Fantasia’s founder Zeng Jie, niece of Zeng Qinghong, a former vice-president of China.

Crypto “currencies” tonight. Let us remember that even Fed officials, starting with Powell, don’t know what to make of this. If I had to lecture them, I would start this: a currency is first and foremost a store of value. If it is not that, it is a currency only as an exchange token or as a unit of account… BUT IT IS NOT MONEY! Yet, agents using crypto treat AS IF it were MONEY! Given the considerable amounts involved, this “fictional money” or currency over which you have no control whatsoever is now seriously undermining any REAL VALUE that the US dollar - the only currency over which you still have control as a store of value through interest rates and money supply - might have. Which means that the credibility of your credit system, the financial system, is seriously compromised. Gresham’s Law says that “bad money drives out the good” - for obvious reasons given that good money is a store of value and agents promptly HOARD it when bad money circulates… This means that pretty soon no money transactions can be carried out, except through BARTER. Think about the implications of that!

Keynes had the gift of the gab. Whenever there was a concept he could only dimly understand, he resorted to ludicrous phrases such as “animal spirits” (propensity to invest dependent on profitability), “beauty contest” (financial speculation induced by falling profitability and excess liquidity) and so forth. For him, money was “a bridge between present and future” - a pathetic metaphor! But this “bridge” is over the real gap that exists between investment of capital in the present and return of capital or on capital in the future - on the likelihood of profit, in other words. Print enough money and this profit becomes fictitious as the capital evaporates because it no longer bears relation to the ability to command living labour. Then you have a financial and industrial crisis…

Della Loggia has written an important editorial summarising the shipwreck of Italian parliamentary democracy - but one that can be easily extended to the rest of the West. Parliamentary democracy is dying and we are moving precipitously to the kind of authoritarian governments that preceded the advent of fascism in 1922 in Italy, and then gradually elsewhere. The decline of parliament as against the rise of the executive is due to the fragmentation of political parties, which indeed no longer deserve the name except in a broad sense applicable to the early associations of aristocrats and "notables" in Britain and France respectively.

In turn, the decline of political parties itself reflects the annihilation of the Western working classes as a result of the Nixonian "opening" to China and subsequent "globalisation". As this process comes to an end, the bourgeoisies of the West have taken advantage by destroying ruthlessly any semblance of social solidarity in their "metropolitan" nation-state by fuelling a "savage capitalism" that is now turning into a veritable Texan saloon of Far West memory.

The effects of this sundering of the social fabric ... "sono sotto gli occhi di tutti". God help us.

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